Grants Fund New Murals at Fowler Drive, Stroud

Students at Fowler Drive and Howard B. Stroud elementary schools recently had the opportunity to participate in the creation of artworks at their schools under the direction of professional artists.

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Longstanding Clarke County School District partner AthFest Educates, a nonprofit committed to sustaining and advancing music and arts education for K-12 youth in Athens-Clarke County, awarded Fowler Drive art teacher Elizabeth Hale and Stroud art teacher Troy Authement grants, making this collaboration possible.

Thanks to the $5,000 grant at Fowler Drive, professional artist David Hale hosted a three-week artist-in-residence program where he worked directly with Fowler’s approximately 355 K-5 students to create a large-scale hallway mural. He is also working on a large wooden falcon sculpture that will be installed outside at the front of the school building.

Each grade was organized into small groups to work alongside Mr. Hale. Fifth-grade students submitted adjectives they used to describe a falcon (the school’s mascot), and Mr. Hale was able to incorporate those into the mural.

Elizabeth Hale said her students have been discussing how elements of nature can be incorporated into artwork and the benefits public art brings to communities. She said her students benefited from witnessing how a professional artist takes a creation from start to finish.

“The indoor mural and the outdoor sculpture will be an act of beautification that will promote a positive climate for change and growth at our school,” Ms. Hale said. 

Meanwhile, utilizing the $4,618 grant at Stroud, artist Broderick Flanigan (a former student at Stroud when it was named Fourth Street Elementary) recently worked with third- and fourth-grade students to complete a mural at the school, using “community” as their theme. Students designed images, symbols, and words that reflect that theme and applied them to the mural.

On his studio’s Facebook page, Mr. Flanigan said the concept of the mural design was inspired by the tradition of quilt-making by Black female artists and the work of the Gee’s Bend quilting collective. He also noted the historical use of quilts by Black women who embedded codes and messages to communicate complex mapping systems and routes to help lead people to freedom.

“It was a real win for our students to work with Mr. Flanigan to complete the mural at Howard B. Stroud,” Mr. Authement said. “His enthusiasm and love of art were infectious to both students and staff.”

Jill Helme, executive director of AthFest Educates, said her organization believes that it is “very important for young people to see themselves reflected in the art and to understand that a career as an artist is a promising path and incredibly rewarding.”

“We have worked with Broderick and David on multiple projects, and they are both wonderful artists that do an excellent job working with young people,” Ms. Helme said. “We're excited that the Stroud and Fowler students and communities were able to have this experience."